Organic Gardening Tips and Plants – How to

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Organic
Gardening Tips

Terra Viva Organics

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Bringing Your Plants Indoors
The Importance of Healthy Dirt
Natural Controls For That Fungus Among Us
Honey-Orange Glazed Butternut Squash


Bringing Your Plants Indoors

by Arzeena Hamir

As
the risk of frost nears, it’s time to bring in some of
the non-hardy plants so that they can overwinter indoors.
But before you start digging up your plants and plunking
them in pots in front of your window, follow a few easy
steps to ensure that your plants make it through the winter.

Choose vigorously growing, healthy plants to bring
inside. No need to try to save the ones that look sickly.
Dig them up carefully so that you get as much of the
root mass as possible. Place the plant in a good size
pot – 1 gallon if you can – with regular potting soil.

Do a moderate pruning as you bring your plants indoors.
The older leaves of most garden plants begin to yellow
as they’re moved inside and pruning back will help encourage
new growth that is better adapted to the lower light
conditions indoors. Plants like basil also benefit from
pinching back to encourage bushy growth.

If your fall days are still sunny, you may need to
water quite often to prevent your plants from drying
out. As we move into the winter, your plants will require
only moderate watering – no more than once a week. Over
watering is the #1 killer of houseplants so test the
soil before you water.

Plants can also hide unwanted stowaways as they’re
brought in. While they are outside, pests are controlled
by a number of biological controls but as soon as you
bring them indoors, YOU become the only pest control
method. If aphids & mealy bugs aren’t kept under control,
they will soon overwhelm a plant.

Check all of the leaves and if it looks like you have
some insect activity, spray the plant with soapy water
or insecticidal soap and make sure to spray both the
top and underside of each leaf. Keep the plant out on
the porch until you’re quite sure you have killed most
of the pests.

Most houses have quite dry, warm air which can also
encourage spider mites. These mites spin fine webs around
plant leaves and will suck on the leaves, causing them
to yellow & die. Wash the leaves well under a strong
stream of water to dislodge them and keep the plant
well misted to increase the humidity. Insecticidal soap
will also help keep these mites under control.

Finally, if any of your plants were in pots outdoors,
make sure to lift them out of the pot and check for
slugs. Slugs will often enter plant pots through the
drainage holes and lay their eggs at the bottom of the
pot. The young slugs will then nest quite happily in
your pot, feeding on the roots as they need nourishment.
Flick them out before you place your plant back into
the pot.

Plants to bring indoors include:

Basil Lemongrass
Coleus Begonias
Geraniums Christmas Cactus

Arzeena
Hamir
is an agronomist and President of Terra Viva
Organics. When she’s not planting peas or picking zucchini,
she answers questions about organic gardening at: advice@tvorganics.com.
You can also read her gardening articles on Vegetable
Gardening at www.Suite101.com


The Importance of Healthy Dirt

by Herb Gardener

DIRT

It is a small word. It is an unimpressive word. It
is a word we don’t think nearly enough about. When we
do think about it, it is usually how to get it out of
clothes or keep it out of the house.

But, for a gardener, dirt is where it all starts.
Dirt determines weather you will have scrawny chocolate
daisies or vibrant healthy ones. The condition of your
dirt invites insect pests or repels them. It safeguards
your salvias from deadly fungus diseases or it lets
root rots run rampant and destroy everything. Good dirt
is a pleasure to garden in and bad dirt makes us wish
shovels were never invented.

We
take dirt for granted like air. It is just there. But,
dirt is a living breathing world that needs care and
attention. Just like the air we breath needs to be cared
for or it becomes unhealthful; dirt needs to be tended
or it dies.

DIES???

Yes, it dies. Take a look at nature. Every spring
plants sprout, grow, flower and die. Does anyone come
along with a rake or a tiller and tidy up? No, the dead
plant lays there and decomposes. All the nutrients that
the living green plant had are now being integrated
back into the dirt they came from. As the years go by,
an incredibly rich soil is built and forests and foothills
flourish.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t resemble our yard and
garden very much. Often, the land is scraped or dug
out to make room for a home. Taking away the top layers
of soil leaves us with harder, less workable, less alive
soil. It is funny but most of us understand this intrusion.
We even forgive it; we had to put the house somewhere.

But, when we get ready to plant our gardens, we often
do the same thing on a smaller scale by double digging
and rototilling. What are we doing? We are disrupting
the natural layers of soil.

Removing and churning up the layers of the soil, is
not the only way we kill the dirt. Chemical fertilizers
are another reason we have dead dirt. Lawns that are
treated year after year with chemical fertilizer are
a good example of dead dirt. The imbalance caused by
excessive nutrients of one kind, say nitrogen in the
form of ammonia nitrate, wrecks havoc with the balance
of nutrients needed by the soil. It would be as if the
only nutrient your body received was Vitamin E. Eventually,
your body could not function. But, when you apply an
organic fertilizer, say a nice compost, you are providing
a broad range of nutrients and the soil thrives. With
the health of the soil, comes microbial life, earthworms,
even gophers. The soil is more balanced. You fertilize
less. You have better crops. You have less disease.
You win!

Here are some quick tips for a healthy soil.

  • If you have a lawn, leave the clippings on. Run
    over them a few times with the lawn mower to chop
    them up. Realize that whatever fertilizer you put
    on the lawn (or any plant), is taken from the roots
    to the leaves. When you get rid of the lawn clippings,
    you are throwing away the money you spent on fertilizer.
    If you don’t want to leave the clippings on the lawn,
    make a compost pile with them.

  • Avoid deep tilling. Amendments like sawdust or compost
    or manure can be worked into the top few inches or
    just added to the top. When we dig deeply we make
    upside down soil instead of healthy soil. Remember
    the soil on the bottom has been pressed on longer
    than the soil on top and it is better to just leave
    the bottom soil on the bottom.

  • Don’t expose bare ground to rains and sun. A quick
    way to make concrete is to leave a soil high in clay
    bare of growth. If you are not ready to use that plot
    of ground, mow the weeds short but leave the roots
    and mowings on top. Here, we have lots of acres that
    are still in grasses. We don’t remove the natural
    vegetation until we are ready to do something better
    with the ground.

  • Keep heavy equipment off the ground. The very important
    air spaces in your soil will be closed by compaction
    or the pressing of the weight of the machine on the
    soil. The soil does not just pop back open and the
    air spaces are lost for a long time.

  • And, it goes without saying,(but I am going to say
    it anyway),stay away from herbicides, pesticides and
    chemical fertilizers. If you have pesky weeds, solarize
    or mulch. If you have nasty critters, work on the
    health of your soil by adding layers of organic amendments.

Understanding our dirt and taking care of it will go a
long way toward a more enjoyable garden experience.

Written by: Herb Gardener, vj@mountainvalleygrowers.com
http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com


Natural Controls For That Fungus Among
Us

by Don Trotter

Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome to disease control
101 for your garden. In this discussion we will be looking
at those unseen disease organisms that are of constant
concern for gardeners in any location and climate. So
lets take a walk out to the garden and look at the places
were these bacteria, fungi, and viruses live and how to
put a monkey wrench in their plans to damage our plants.

Disease
organisms that attack plant tissue are little understood
critters that inter your plants in a number of ways.
The most common entry into your plants is through wakened
or stressed tissue. The entry may be through a wound
in the plant, an unhealed scar, or within the saliva
of certain plant juice-sucking insects that inject the
toxins into the plant when feeding. These are just a
few of ways that disease organisms can enter your plants.

The old “ounce of prevention” axiom definitely holds
true when considering diseases of plants. By far the
easiest way to prevent diseases from attacking your
precious plants is to grow healthy plants! Using natural
gardening techniques is a very good way to ensure you
grow healthy plants. Natural/ organic gardening practices
are very efficient ways to make sure that pathogenic
disease organisms have competition for energy and that
beneficial organisms that may actually prey on them
are present and active. This battlefield of biology
can take place on a single spec of soil or on the leaf
of your favorite rose. The war of good vs. bad organisms
is as old as the Earth itself and is known as “competitive
exclusion”. By promoting the proliferation of beneficial
organisms in your garden you automatically reduce the
chances of pathogenic organisms taking hold. The best
way do this is to garden naturally!

The most effective way to begin the process of competitive
exclusion is to apply copious amounts of organic matter
to your garden soil. This can be achieved by adding
composts, organic mulches, and manures to your soil
each season. The addition of any of these types of organic
matter will encourage the growth of beneficial organisms
while it improves the physical quality of your soil.
These beneficial organisms will proliferate in your
rich, organically tended soil and fight off those evil
microbes that attack your plants. Adding a 3 to 4 inch
layer of composted manure, backyard compost, or organic
mulch will ensure that these good guys have plenty of
energy to keep the bad guys at bay.

Many gardeners use a variety of chemical fungicides
to compete with disease organisms in order to keep their
gardens disease free. This is a very counter productive
and environmentally insensitive method. If one is inclined
to spray, it is the goal of this natural gardener to
give you some alternatives to synthetic chemicals. Some
very good fungicidal materials from natural sources
are as follows.

Lime/Sulfur sprays:

These materials are derived from naturally occurring
minerals that are combined with water and sprayed onto
plants affected by powdery mildew, rust, black spot,
and a number of other disease organisms. It is widely
distributed by retailers and can be found at most garden
centers.

Copper:

Copper sulfate is probably one of most widely used
fungicides by farmers and gardeners alike. It is effective
at controlling a wide variety of disease organisms.
It is easily found at all nurseries and garden centers
and is a very powerful material.

Neem:

The oil extracted from the seed of the Neem tree of
India is an effective control for many disease organisms,
especially on roses. Neem is also used as an insecticide
and is used in soaps and toothpastes to fight bacteria
as well.

I have a home brewed fungicide that has worked for
many years in controlling a number of fungi on veggies
and roses. It consists of equal parts of baking soda
and hydrogen peroxide (5 tablespoons) mixed into a gallon
of water. I use this one when powdery mildew gets out
of hand on my squash or peas. I also use this one on
roses when that bloody rust shows up. I also use it
on black spot and downy mildew on roses and grapes.

There are no shortages of disease pathogens that can
take hold in the garden. The natural gardener is the
most prepared to take the rascals on. Next time we will
be discussing some natural care techniques for your
houseplants. See you in the Garden!

Got Questions? Email the Doc at Curly@mill.net Don
Trotter’s natural gardening columns appear nationally
in environmentally sensitive publications. Check out
Don’s books for lots of helpful gardening tips Natural
Gardening A-Z, The Complete Natural Gardener, and soon
to be released Rose Gardening A-Z, all from Hay House
Publishing www.hayhouse.com and available at all bookstores
and on-line booksellers.

 


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